THE plan sounds simple enough: Get tough...


THE plan sounds simple enough: Get tough with criminals by putting more of them in jail and throwing away the key. Do away with parole. Pressure judges to give longer sentences to violent criminals, and then make the prisoners serve the entire term meted out.

That's what one long-shot Democratic candidate for governor, American Joe Miedusiewski, wants to do. And so does Republican candidate Ellen Sauerbrey.

But these fiscal conservatives are playing a shell game with voters. Who's going to pay for the added costs? Wait till Marylanders get a glimpse at the expenses involved.

Just building enough new prisons to house all these extra inmates will run $400 million. And that's a conservative estimate.

It is more than sufficient to construct two new public football stadiums -- one named after Jack Kent Cooke and the other named after William Donald Schaefer. There would even be enough taxpayer money left over to build a new Capitol Centre for Abe Pollin, too. And probably another $10 million to toss Joe De Francis' way to upgrade Laurel's betting parlors.

That's just the start of the expenses, though. These 4,000 extra prisoners have to be housed, fed, clothed and given free medical care. Current cost, not counting future inflation: $68 million per year.

When the gubernatorial candidates announce their plans for paying for this program -- $400 million in capital funds and $272 million in operating funds over the next governor's term in office -- then we'll know they are serious.

Until then, stay tuned for the next grand-sounding scheme from gubernatorial candidates seeking to wow voters with hot rhetoric designed to appeal to the emotions, not the pocketbook.

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